Sunday, October 5, 2014

Using Social Media for Learning

Using Social Media for Learning

Rachel Burnham writes: Using Social Media for Learning was the subject of a special LDinsight Twitter chat held during Learning Live in September.  Whilst I also use social media to aid my own learning, that particular discussion got me thinking about some of the ways in which I have experimented with using social media to aid the learning of others.  I decided I would find it useful to review what I had tried and how these attempts had worked.  And I thought I would share this through my blog, so that others can learn from this.

Some of these examples worked, some didn’t.  There is nothing outstandingly original here, just the small types of trial that can be easily integrated into existing programmes and your day to day work.

Using Twitter
Twitter is my favourite social media tool and the one that I find most fruitful for my own personal learning.  It has just been voted the top learning tool in the poll, which Jane Hart runs, for the 6th year running, so clearly I’m not alone. I have recently moved from simply enthusing about Twitter & its value for learning to individuals whenever the opportunity arises  (and sometimes even when it is clearly neither the time or the place), to incorporating a short introduction to using Twitter for professional development into some initiatives around career development that I have been working on with a client.  There is interest, but whether it will translate into action is another question.  I will have a better handle on this after next week and the main roll out.  (Can’t escape the irony of doing a face to face session on using Twitter – but there was demand for it!  Have also created a free standing starter handout and will be using a great short video on how social media can aid professional development, that we will be playing during some of the activities next week)

I have also had a go at using Twitter in the context of a module on Coaching from within the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice (CLDP).  As there were two workshops on this topic separated by a month, I thought it might work to encourage learners to share practical coaching tips between workshops, via Twitter, with other people from the group through a common hashtag.  This would enable students to put some of their learning into their own words and also aid preparation for the practical coaching session assessed in the second workshop.  I tried it with two groups and encouraged participation & shared tips myself.  However, this really did not work. 
So, I had another go and did the same activity but this time through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) used throughout the programme and it worked a treat.   

From feedback from the groups involved and my own observations, my learning from this was that you have to go where people are – the group were already on the VLE and had become comfortable using it - they had to use it for the rest of the programme - so it was convenient to use it for this particular activity.  My second thought was that perhaps for some it would have felt too exposing to share their thoughts on coaching with all and sundry via Twitter, whereas they felt comfortable doing this with their fellow students who they already knew.

I am now trying out using Twitter to encourage contact and sharing between groups who are doing the same programme but in different locations.  The jury is still out on this one, but I think the same issues are cropping up.

Scoop It!
Scoop It! is a curation tool for articles, blogs, video or sound clips and pictures.  You can create two collections of materials for free and after that you need to pay a subscription to create further Scoop It!s Once you have curated a selection you can then publish this.
I find this tool very easy to use and I really like the way you can add your own ‘labels’ to each of the resources you have added to your collection, as this helps readers to understand the thinking behind your picks and how these will be useful to them.  This is an easy way you can ‘add value’ to the collection of resources and means you can include your own ‘critical’ voice to the materials you have curated.
I have used this tool to curate collections of resources to support face to face sessions.  This means you can substantially reduce the need for paper based handouts, which is good for the environment and less costly.  I have also found that this approach has enabled me to add in particular resources to tailor the information provided for specific individual needs.  It is also possible to easily update and refresh the Scoop It and all those with access to the link can then get the updated info – no need to reprint!

I have also used a Scoop It as a handy way to maintain a common body of resources to support collaboration on a common project between in-house team members and myself as an external consultant.

The third way that I plan to use Scoop It! is to support ‘treasure hunt’ type activities either face to face or at a distance, where I provide a range of resources for learners to tap into and use as a base for tackling some kind of a learning challenge.  Whilst it is great to get learners doing their own open research, sometimes it is good to give them a starter pack to accelerate the process and Scoop It! would be a great way to do this. 

The limitation with Scoop It! is that you only get 2 free and then need to move into a subscription service and maintain this to maintain the collections you have built.   I plan to experiment with social bookmarking tools to see how these compare, but haven’t had the chance to do this yet.

The third social media tool I have used to aid others learning is blogging.   We have used this on MOL’s CLDP programme to great effect and require each learner to maintain a reflective log in the form of a blog.  This has worked so much more effectively than the old hard copy reflective log and I think this is down to the interaction it generates between the individual learner and their tutor, which often leads to dialogue.   These blogs are held within the VLE for each course group, but the blog is only accessible to the individual student and their tutor, neither the public nor other students in the same group can read it.  I would love to hear from anybody who has experience of using blogging in the context of a learning programme where other students could read each others blogs. 

The blog feature is one of my favourite aspects of the CLDP programme, it provides very immediate feedback from learners on their learning – it feels honest – I know I have certainly had students expressing critical views of the programme and sharing their individual challenges with the programme and this gives me the opportunity to address those concerns individually.  I also find the detail on how students are applying their learning and how they challenging practices in their organisation hugely motivating for me!

I would be most interested in hearing of your experiences of using social media to support others learning and look forward to reading your comments.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.
Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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